Friday, July 11, 2008

Dave Ramsey Marathon and My Credit Card Woes

I know I haven’t really posted in a while. I guess its because I don’t have very much to report.

On the 4th of July, my wife and I stayed over at her parents’ house. The plan was to go boating and watch fireworks in the evening. Well, the morning was pretty laid back, and I am always an early riser so I watched some TV while everyone else was sleeping. My in-laws get the Fox Business Channel (which I don’t think is available through my provider) and they were playing a Dave Ramsey marathon. I know Dave is a great financial counselor, but I have yet to really watch or listen to him live, so I was pretty excited about it. There isn’t much to his show, at least not the reruns they were playing. About half of the callers are in debt and are asking for help. The other half call in to report that they are “DEBT-FREE!” Dave asks them some questions about how much they paid off, what they did to pay it off, and so on. Then, he has them yell over the phone “I’M DEBT FREE!” It’s a little cheesy, but that is coming from someone who is not debt free. I think when I get everything paid off, I might just want to yell a bit too. It was funny though…a couple of times people said how they paid off $17,000 of debt and I just thought how much I wish I only owed $17,000. I have two credit cards that total more than that. Oh well. Someday, I’ll be the idiot yelling on the phone, until then, I criticize what I envy.

In other news, I spent the early part of my morning going over some of my credit cards. Here’s the back-story…in January, my main bank erroneously reported that I had been late paying my bill a year and a half earlier. As a result, they raised my rate and so did my Discover card(which also has the most debt). I called them both right away to get it fixed, but they told me to wait it out and call back in six months.

Well, it’s been about six months and I decided to try again. My credit report has been fixed so I was ready to go. I called my main bank first. It seemed a little silly because my rate is currently 10.9% (Prime + 5.9%), but if they hadn’t raised it in the first place, it would be 7.9%. Anyway, I asked and they looked into it, but said they couldn’t do it right now, but to call back in October. The dance continues…

This morning I call the Discover and asked the same question. My rate was 14.99% with them and they lowered it to 12.99% without very much effort. I have done this in the past with them, and I learned not to accept their first offer.

When I first signed up for Discover, I was a naive college freshman in 1996. For years, I lived with a 21% interest rate, not realizing that you could ask them to lower it. It almost ruined me several times. In 2004, I found out about the possibility of getting a lower rate by asking, so I did. At first, they offered me 15%, but I said I wanted it lower than that. She did a little more “figuring” and offered me 12%. I said that I had a card that was offering me a lower rate (a complete lie) and if they couldn’t go lower, I would just switch. She finally gave me 0% for six months and 10% thereafter. It saved me a boatload of money.

Even with that knowledge, I didn’t really push too hard for a lower rate. I figured that the 12.99% is okay for now and I can try again later when I have a little more leverage.

I also found that we were paying for Credit Protection on one of our smaller cards. It wasn’t much (about $6 a month), but we never asked for it and it wasn’t necessary. So, my wife cancelled it. I really hate it when credit cards do that.

Anyway, that’s my news.